da Vinci surgical device

The da Vinci surgical device has a home at Dignity Health-St. Mary Medical Center.

It may sound strange, but playing video games can be helpful training for surgeons. The eye-hand coordination and movements used by gamers are strikingly similar to those needed for robotic surgery.

That fact is being demonstrated at Dignity Health-St. Mary Medical Center, with the introduction of the da Vinci surgical robot. Physicians control the robot’s cameras and four surgical arms from a remote console.

Nicole Kent is a clinical sales representative for da Vinci manufacturer Intuitive. According to Kent, surgeons who are comfortable with video games often have a high level of comfort when adapting to robotic surgery.

Last week, in the St Mary Medical Center lobby, Kent invited staff and visitors to sit at a console and guide a robot’s movements in a remote game of Operation.

“It takes some getting used to, but I love it,” Ryan Northup, a nursing student and St. Mary Health Scholar, said.

St. Mary recently acquired its first da Vinci device. The May 15 lobby presentation was a celebration of the new addition.

St. Mary CEO and President Carolyn Caldwell sat at a console and demonstrated the device. Caldwell, who joined St. Mary in June 2017, holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology and chemistry and a master’s in health care administration and has worked in health care for more than 30 years. Kent praised Caldwell’s control at the console.

“I have a science background,” Caldwell replied. “And this will be the third hospital where I have added robotics.”

Caldwell said she has a strong belief in robotic surgery and its contribution to better surgical outcomes. She said she is very excited about adding this technology to St. Mary and is gratified to see the surgeons’ enthusiasm about the new equipment.

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Joseph Naim visited the lobby during the demonstration. He expressed great appreciation for the robot’s 360° motion and delicate movements, attributes that are helpful for specialists who operate in tight spaces. Naim currently does laparoscopic surgeries, but said he plans to do a refresher course with Intuitive so that he can add the robot as an extra tool to his surgical practice.

“The camera is very clear and the device is extremely accurate,” Naim said. “Even I am surprised that the machine can do what it does.”

Urogynecologist Dr. Soorena Fatehchehr has been doing robotic surgeries elsewhere since 2013. He said he is pleased that St. Mary now has a da Vinci device and is moving toward more high-tech, minimally invasive surgery. Fatehchehr said that such surgeries have shorter hospital stays, lower hernia risk, and less post-op pain.

“Suturing is easier, the 3-D camera lets you see better… There are so many advantages,” Fatehchehr said. “Robots are much better for complex surgeries. This device is something that benefits surgeons and patients.”

Caldwell concurred. She said that many modern consumers are very informed and opinionated; most prefer procedures that are minimally invasive.

“This is something the community is seeking,” Caldwell said. “Some patients do research on their own and determine that robotic technology is a better option. We want to give patients that choice. And now we can.”

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